Forgotten man Dyer gets QPR out of jail
QPR 1-1 West Brom
KIERON Dyer rescued QPR's FA Cup hopes with an injury-time equaliser to earn a third round replay against West Brom.
Dyer struck with a left-foot shot with just seconds to go after Shane Long had put West Brom in front in a cup tie lacking in guile.
It was Dyer's first top-flight goal since May 2007 and it keeps QPR's rejuvenation going following their midweek Barclays Premier League victory against Chelsea.
QPR boss Harry Redknapp, however, also had goalkeeper Julio Cesar to thank for making a series of fine saves which included parrying a point-blank header from West Brom striker Romelu Lukaku.
The rows and rows of empty seats in a crowd of just 8,984 at Loftus Road suggested the romance with the FA Cup is declining with the fans but Redknapp, for one, has a soft spot for the famous old competition and not just because he lifted the trophy four years ago with Portsmouth.
He also engineered a famous victory over Manchester United when at Bournemouth.
So when he insisted he was taking the Cup seriously it rang true. He made just four changes from the side which stunned Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in midweek.
Captain Ji-Sung park made his first start since October, while Dyer made a rare appearance and DJ Campbell came straight in after returning from his 10 goals in 17 matches loan spell at Ipswich.
Redknapp also handed a debut to 30-year-old Israeli defender Tal Ben Haim, who he signed earlier in the week to try to shore up his defence.
West Brom, too, paid the Cup due respect, manager Steve Clarke making just two changes from the team which lost to Fulham in their last match and the introduction of Long arguably made them stronger.
So there was no doubting either side's ambition, although you would hardly have known it in a first half which for large swathes was devoid of quality.
One lovely turn by Adel Taarabt to bamboozle Chris Brunt was the only real clue that this was an encounter between two Premier League sides.
In the main QPR were reduced to long-range shots, two from Taarabt which failed to test West Brom goalkeeper Boaz Myhill while Stephane Mbia sent one rasping drive skimming over the crossbar.
QPR huffed and puffed and Park's work ethic caught the eye in midfield but when it came to penetration it was West Brom who demonstrated why they lie seventh in the Premier League, 15 points above relegation worries while rock-bottom QPR trail the rest by five points.
In the 27th minute James Morrison shot into the arms of Cesar and the midfielder then stabbed a six-yard chance wide of the post when it looked easier to score.
But it was Lukaku who gave QPR's defence the biggest headache. The 19-year-old Belgian striker, on loan from Chelsea, is beginning to make a name for himself at the Hawthorns and one mazy run along the byline plus one shot and turn which Cesar smothered demonstrated his talents.
In fact, Lukaku should have scored after 40 minutes. He found himself unmarked in the six-yard area as a long, looping cross from Brunt swung in.
He met the ball solidly and headed goalwards only to see Cesar fling himself to his left to push the ball away.
Clarke had been forced to restructure his side with Zoltan Gera going off injured after 21 minutes, to be replaced by Marc-Antoine Fortune who in turn failed to last the half, limping off in injury time to be replaced by Jerome Thomas.
Yet it was West Brom and that man Lukaku who began the second half with an extra spring. The striker outstripped the QPR defence only to see his thunderous left-foot strike sail narrowly wide.
There was an extra bite and urgency to the game, no doubt both managers having stressed at half-time that neither wanted a replay.
Campbell should have done better with a free header from 10 yards but, in truth, QPR struggled to get a shot on target as West Brom gradually wrested control in midfield.
Clarke's side always looked brighter and more incisive and Thomas might have broken the deadlock after beating three defenders, only to see his left-foot shot smartly saved by Cesar.
When West Brom's goal came it had a touch of fortune. QPR might have cleared the ball on a couple of occasions but it broke to Long wide in the penalty area and his crisp shot took a deflection off defender Nedum Onuoha to beat Cesar.
Then came Dyer's late, late strike. Perfectly executed, but in truth barely deserved